HONG KONG/SINGAPORE: Tencent, the Chinese conglomerate that owns the WeChat mobile messaging service, wants to encourage brands to use its expertise to improve their targeting of Chinese consumers.

The company last month announced the launch of a new operation, based in Singapore, which exists to help brands throughout the Asia-Pacific region gain a better understanding about Chinese consumer habits.

Its International Business Group (IBG) has three main areas of focus – inbound marketing to consumers using Tencent's services in China, outbound marketing to the same consumers when they travel abroad, and local marketing to people using services like WeChat who live outside China.

That is according to Benny Ho, Senior Director of Business Development at Tencent, who told The Drum that the inbound marketing option is the biggest opportunity in Singapore.

He explained that Singapore could see 3m Chinese tourists this year, or about two-thirds of the city state's entire population, and that it would be advantageous for brands to use Tencent's data to target these people as they plan their itineraries before travelling.

"These tourists are setting their own itinerary and they know precisely what store to buy from and in what colour before they arrive; they come to buy, not to shop. This means you need to build all the brand consideration and purchase intent way before they arrive and that is part of the core service we are trying to offer," he said.

Ho went on to explain how Chinese consumers differ in the way they engage with ads, citing a recent campaign German automaker BMW ran on WeChat Moments, the app's sharing facility.

He said that those users who were served an ad from BMW felt "they'd made it to a certain social status" and would go on to screenshot and share the ad. There were even people who complained if they hadn’t received one, he added.

Ho also told The Drum that Tencent's IBG has an important role to play in educating brands about the sheer size and scale of the market in China.

"If you look at only the WeChat platform, it's just over 800m monthly active users; it's a huge number. Every market we go to, we educate the market and tell them the numbers and it's mind blowing," he said. "Our role is to make something that big [more] understandable."

Data sourced from The Drum; additional content by Warc staff